Ottawa Citizen

Labour boss cites flooded tunnel, safety concerns


The Ottawa and District Labour Council has released a photo of water that had leaked into the LRT tunnel.

The photo, taken more than a month ago according to the labour council, raises questions about the safety of workers on the project, said labour council president Sean McKenny. But it’s also not the worst photo McKenny has seen of working conditions undergroun­d. Others have not been made public.

“There are a number of photos that we have that are worse. But this is the one that really shows the water piece (of the problem),” he said. “It’s not a puddle. It’s significan­t.”

The workers are concerned about having to walk through the water, said McKenny. “When you have water like that, you never know what you’re walking on or into. There have been issues with workers falling and tripping because of the amount of debris.”

There are additional concerns because there are also a lot of power tools and electrical cords in use in the tunnel, he said. “The city says safety is a priority. If it were a priority, we wouldn’t have a photo like this floating around.”

Kenny said the photo was taken at least a month ago by workers at the west portal, near LeBreton Flats.

In a statement, Steven Cripps, the city’s director of O-Train constructi­on, said the photo was taken after a record rainfall on July 25 when the location was running on temporary sump pumps.

“With the location still under constructi­on, temporary pumps could not handle the excessive amount of water from the recordbrea­king rainfall, resulting in localized flooding,” said Cripps. “When the project is complete, permanent sump pumps and drainage systems will handle any water infiltrati­on during inclement weather.”

Cripps added that the LRT tunnel has a waterproof layer around it because the tunnel is below the water table.

“If water leaks still occur, RTG (the Rideau Transit Group, the consortium building the east-west LRT line) addresses them on an individual, case-by-case basis using an injection mechanism that is very effective as the injected material solidifies and becomes impenetrab­le.”

McKenny said the labour council understood that the photo was taken when the pumping system was not working, which allowed a significan­t amount of water to accumulate. “Surely there would be a backup pump,” he said.

Last month, the city’s finance and economic developmen­t committee heard the Rideau Transit Group could not meet the Nov. 2 deadline and that the Confederat­ion line won’t launch until 2019.

Meanwhile, it’s unclear how many workers have been injured in the tunnel project. Some injuries have been reported by paramedics and other details have been released to the media through documents.

In March, work on a section of the Rideau Street section of the project was halted after two workers were hospitaliz­ed with minor injuries after two transporta­tion devices collided. In July 2017, a worker suffered a neck injury when equipment at a tunnel entry point on Queen Street fell on his head. In March 2017, a crane operator escaped injury when he leaped from the crane as it tipped over while lifting a small cement mixer into a hole at a tunnel near Laurier Avenue and Waller Street.

Postmedia reported in August 2017 that it had acquired seven sets of minutes from meetings of the LRT Confederat­ion Line’s joint health and safety committee from the Ottawa and District Labour Council. The January 2017 meeting included a note about Labour Ministry inspectors investigat­ing a worker who lost consciousn­ess while working along the old Transitway near Carruthers Avenue, as well as descriptio­ns of other injuries, including a worker amputating the tip of his thumb when a circular saw kicked back, a worker straining his groin while reposition­ing a steel beam, a worker receiving seven stitches to close a wound on an index finger from a steel burr, and a worker’s ring finger crushed while reposition­ing equipment.

McKenny said he believes the number of injuries reported to the Ontario Ministry of Labour don’t reflect the actual number of injuries suffered on the project. Some workers do not seek compensati­on, so they are not counted, he said.

Workers also don’t want their employers to know that they have shared photos of conditions on the job site for fear of losing opportunit­ies to work, said McKenny. “A lot of workers are reluctant to rock the boat.”

 ?? DAVID KAWAI ?? Sean McKenny, president of the Ottawa and District Labour Council, says flooding of the LRT job site is a danger to workers.
DAVID KAWAI Sean McKenny, president of the Ottawa and District Labour Council, says flooding of the LRT job site is a danger to workers.

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